Oxy-Reckitt Benckiser Korea (Oxy) is a company which specializes in products related to home hygiene. This year, it was revealed that Oxy’s humidifier disinfectant contained toxins which caused 1,500 people, including infants, to become ill and even die. Despite numerous complaints made to Oxy by customers, Oxy denied that its products were at fault. On May 2, Oxy finally held a press conference where Ata Safdar, Chief Executive Officer of Oxy, apologized to their victims and promised for a compensation. However, as the compensation plan proved to be ineffective, citizens have started to boycott Oxy products. Oxy products are no longer seen in places such as convenience stores and department stores. Following this social campaign, many university students are also showing efforts to join the Oxy boycott.
Behind the boycott of Oxy products
Illnesses and deaths caused by disinfectants from Oxy are not only a recent matter. In fact, the dangers of Oxy’s humidifier disinfectant have been a subject of controversy for the last few years. It is reported that 103 people had lost their lives as a result of Oxy’s disinfectants by 2011. Among them were five pregnant women who died from lung dysfunctions. As a result, victims have been making objections for over five years, but Oxy has not yet responded. This issue finally came under the spotlight as the number of casualties increased.
Having remained silent until recently, Oxy presented a written opinion to the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office at the end of last year that included the assertion that the cause of death was the yellow dust in the spring, not its humidifier disinfectant. Moreover, in order to cover up its fault, it even requested a famous law firm and a chemistry professor to distort the results of a toxicity experiment. Then they submitted a report, which included evidence favorable to Oxy.
As these facts became publicized, a storm of protest arose in Korea. Consequently, Oxy finally issued a formal apology by e-mail and promised to compensate victims on April 21. However, many consider this apology to be insincere and have questioned the effectiveness of the compensation plan. Oxy has limited the recipient of compensation to those who have receipts of purchase for Oxy products and who suffer from lung diseases. Oxy’s attitude was enough to outrage many Korean customers, eventually leading to a nationwide boycott of Oxy products.
Along with the nationwide consumer boycott, universities have decided to take part as well. This participation is said to convey the message that public educational institutions should join the boycott for students’ safety and show a firm attitude as ethical consumers. Moreover, it aims to assert the public view that any company that endangers the health of customers should no longer exist in the market.